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He then proceeded to the identification of the prisoner by Talbot himself, and asked what motive Talbot could have had to make a false statement when he believed he was dying. As to the theory that the pistol had changed hands, it was highly improbable, almost impossible.
The jury, after examining the pistol and bullets, with the pieces of lead found in the body, as well as the map of the locality in which the murder was committed, returned a verdict of Not Guilty. The prisoner was remanded, in order that he might be tried on the charges of firing at the policeman Mullan, and of assaulting the two constables, Moony and Shannon. The Commission opened on December 6th, when the grand jury found true bills against Kelly. The trial was, however, postponed, in consequence of an application from Mr. Butt, on the ground that a number of publications had been circulated in the city and county of Dublin, especially among the jurors, which were calculated to prevent the prisoner from obtaining a fair trial.
In connexion with this trial, which caused great excitement at the time, and was the subject of free comments both in the English and Irish newspapers, we may mention the case of Richard Pigott, proprietor of the Irishman newspaper, who was charged with having published, during Kelly's trial, a scandalous and malicious libel, calculated to interfere with the administration of justice. Chief Justice Whiteside said that the article was one of a series published with the same intent. The lesson songht to be impressed on the readers of the Irishman was the hideous, impious, and blasphemous one that the man who shot an informer was not alone no criminal, but a hero worthy of honour. That doctrine, if believed in, would render the trial they had gone through a mockery, and its tendency was to hand Dublin over to the government of bowie knife and revolver. The articles were meant to defeat justice, to blacken the character of witnesses, to intimidate jurors, and to make law impossible. The Court therefore sentenced Mr. Pigott to four months' imprisonment.
THE “AGINCOURT” COURT MARTIAL.
In our Chronicle for July was recorded the stranding of the “ Agincourt” near Gibraltar. A Court Martial for the trial of the officers belonging to the vessel was opened on July the 26th, on board the “Royal Adelaide,” at Devonport. The charge was as follows:
* For that they, the said Henry Hamilton Beamish, Charles Edward Bell, and John Ellis Knight, then being persons subject to the ‘Naval Discipline Act (1866),' and belonging to her Majesty's ship' Agincourt,' did, on the 1st day of July, 1871, negligently strand the 'Agincourt' on the Pearl Rock."
The following officers composed the Court :-Admiral Sir H. J. Codrington, K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief at Devonport; Rear-Admiral Edmund Heathcote, Senior Officer on the coast of Ireland; Rear-Admiral W. H. Stewart, C.B., Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard ; Captains Lord John
Hay, additional to the "Royal Adelaide;" Charles Fellowes, C.B., "Indus;" Hon. F. A. C. Foley, “Cambridge;" E. H. G. Lambert, "Iron Duke;" W. G. Jones, “Impregnable"; and T. P. Coode, “Royal Adelaide;" Mr. William Eastlake, Deputy Judge-Advocate of the Fleet; Mr. Fegen, paymaster, R.N., barrister-at-law; Mr. R. W. Ford, solicitor, of Portsmouth, defended Captain Beamish.
After letters had been read from Vice-Admiral Wellesley and Captain Beamish to the Admiralty, reporting the disaster, Lieutenant MacFarlane, Commander Boyle, and some of the seamen gave evidence as to the manner in which it happened. Two leadsmen proved that deep water was under the vessel till just before she struck. Rear-Admiral Wilmot attributed the accident to want of proper attention and care on the part of the officers. He said that when he left the deck he was not aware of the vessel's proximity to the shoal, nor was the subject of the Pearl Rock alluded to by any of his officers. Admiral Wellesley said that judging before the result, he considered the whole squadron would have gone wide of the Pearl Rock. Had the navigating officers taken repeated crossbearings they must have seen the ship was not steering the prescribed course. He thought the “ Agincourt” was perfectly in her station. Lieutenants Bearcroft and Littledale, of the "Minotaur,” gave the opinion that the “
was two cables out of the stream at the time she grounded. Lieutenant Brackenbury believed she could not have been really out of the stream. Captain the Hon. Carr-Glynn, of the “Warrior,” said he thought the course ordered from the “Minotaur risky, and that it had been given under a misapprehension, but did not think it right to signal his apprehensions, the course having been changed three times. Staff Commodore Mayo, of the “Warrior,” said he saw the “ Agincourt" was steering right on the Pearl Rock, and considered the accident due to the Admiral's not having led the squadron with his usual prudence.
On the 7th the prisoners read their defence. Captain Beamish pointed out that perfect station was maintained by the “ Agincourt,” that he was constantly on the bridge, and that he had at no time sufficient apprehension of danger to justify his signalling to the Vice-Admiral, although he remarked that the course was unusually close to the Pearl Rock, much closer than he himself would have steered. When the ship struck he was below consulting the doctor, because his state of health required it; but he had no reason to believe that any precautions were relaxed. When the “ Agincourt” had struck every thing possible was done to clear her. Nothing had occurred to weaken the natural presumption that the leading ship would navigate the fleet with safety. After referring to the Admiralty sailing directions for the coast of Spain, the prisoner said “that from some cause, probably the jealousy of former Spanish Governments and their unwillingness to allow English surveying officers to land on their coasts, no English surveyors or hydrographers are directly responsible for any part of the sailing directions relative to that portion of the Straits of Gibraltar with which this inquiry is concerned. These directions are certainly a compilation only from certain Spanish works, on referring to which it would be found that they differ in minor but material points in the directions for avoiding the Pearl Rock. Moreover, he submitted statements, made by residents on the spot, that there are outlying shoals not marked on any chart. Further, it would be seen that the ‘Agincourt' fell into
the race of the tide running round the Pearl Rock, of which there was no opportunity of obtaining any estimate or warning."
Lieutenant Bell, in his defence, urged that he had no misgivings as to the safety of the ship, and that his other duties prevented his paying strict attention to the navigation, which he left to the proper officers.
Staff-Commander Knight pleaded that he was not a free agent, being guided by the flag-ship. The “Agincourt" was in her station until carried out of it by the current running round the Pearl Rock, and which would have carried the ship a cable and a half ont of her station, unperceived, within three minutes. At the time of striking they were looking for the two beacons represented on the plan as marking the Pearl Rock; but, as it subsequently turned out, they were too much overgrown with brushwood to be properly seen. He had full confidence in the orders of the “ Minotaur." He attributed the disaster chiefly to the misdirections given in the sailing directions, and pointed to his service of twenty-five years and his hitherto stainless character.
The prisoners handed in excellent testimonials, and called several witnesses to prove there was no negligence.
The Court, after deliberating for two hours, gave the following judgment : —“Having heard the evidence in support of the charge, as well as what the prisoners have offered on their behalf, and having maturely and deliberately weighed and considered the same, the Court is of opinion that as regards each of the said prisoners the said charge has been proved; but, considering the attending circumstances under which the 'Agincourt' was then being navigated, the Court only adjudges the said Captain Beamish and the said Staff-Commander Knight to be severely reprimanded and admonished to be more careful in the future; and the Court only adjudges the said Lieutenant Bell to be admonished to be more careful in future: and the said Captain Beamish and the said Staff-Commander Knight are hereby severely reprimanded and admonished, and the said Lieutenant Bell is hereby admonished.”
The Lords of the Admiralty subsequently published a Minute, in which it was stated that their lordships were satisfied, from perusal of the evidence taken before the court-martial, that all the material facts connected with the stranding of the “ Agincourt” were fully brought out, and that no further inquiry was necessary. They considered that the stranding of the ship was occasioned by great negligence on the part of other officers as well as those who had been tried. They were of opinion that the primary cause of the disaster was clearly the unsafe course steered by the squadron, in obedience to signal from the flag-ship of Vice-Admiral Wellesley. It was also RearAdmiral Wilmot's duty to have informed himself of the position of the ships in his division with reference to any danger in their course, and to have exercised a watchful care to keep them clear of such danger. Had RearAdmiral Wilmot paid more attention to the navigation of the ships under his immediate orders, he would not have suffered his flag-ship, leading the starboard division, to run on shore on a well-known shoal, in broad daylight, when the land and marks for clearing the shoal were distinctly visible. Their lordships therefore, though with great regret, superseded both these officers from their command. Staff-Commander Kiddle, the senior navigating officer of the flag-ship, was deprived of the pilotage of the Channel
squadron, and placed upon half-pay. Upon the conduct of the officers tried by the court-martial, their lordships passed no further comment. The Minute concluded by expressing the approbation of their lordships of the conduct of the officers and men of the squadron for their exertions in lightening and rescuing the “ Agincourt,” with an express notice of the skill exhi. bited by Captain Lord Gilford in rendering the assistance of the “Hercules.”
A COURT MARTIAL was opened on November 9th, on board H.M.S. the “Duke of Wellington” in Portsmouth Harbour, for the trial of Captain Thrupp, and the officers of Her Majesty's iron steamship“Megæra,” accused of having caused the stranding and loss of that vessel off St. Paul's Island on the 19th of June, 1871. Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., presided, and the other members of the Court were Captains Hancock, “Duke of Wellington;" Rice, Aide-deCamp to the Queen, “Asia," and Steam Reserves at Portsmouth ; Boyes, "Excellent,” Gunnery Establishment and Superintendent of the Naval College ; Waddilove, “Inconstant;" Aynsley, “Monarch;" Graham, “Immortalité;" Richards, “ Jumna," and Colme-Seymour, "Volage." Mr. Martin, paymaster of the Royal Yacht“Victoria and Albert," barrister-at-law, officiated as JudgeAdvocate, and Commodore Dowell, C.B., appeared, by permission of the Court, s the friend of Captain Thrupp.
A short account of the disaster was given in our Chronicle for August. A despatch from the Acting Lieutenant of the vessel, Mr. Jones, to the Admiralty, dated Batavia, August 7th, gives the following particulars. "On June 8th, on the voyage from the Cape to Sydney, a leak was reported in the vessel, but was for several days kept under by hand-pumps and baling. About the 14th of June the leak became more serious, and the water gained on the pumps. Steam was then used and by the aid of the main steam pumps the water was kept in check. It was then determined to steer for St. Paul's Island, where she arrived and anchored on Saturday, June 17th. On examination of the vessel a hole was discovered worn through the centre of a plate, about 12 ft. abaft the mainmast and about 8 ft. from the keel, port side, besides other serious injuries in the immediate vicinity of the leak. On the 19th of June, the weather being very stormy, and it being impossible to keep the ship in position, it was determined to beach her. At about one p.m. the ship was run full speed on to the bar, and remained there. She soon afterwards filled up to the main deck aft at high water. The ship was not entirely abandoned for about ten or twelve days after she was beached."
At the opening of the Court, Captain Thrupp read a narrative of the circumstances attending the loss of the ship, adding that he had no complaint to make against any of the officers or crew. He said, in describing the position of the leak, that the water came into the ship in the same manner as it comes from a fire-plug in the street. When he decided to run to St. Paul's his intention was to examine the vessel and stop the leak, for he had then no idea that it would be necessary to land his crew. But after the frequent choking of the
steam bilge-pumps with the pieces of iron, and in the face of the examinations made, not only by himself, but by other officers, it would not have been safe to go on for a single day. Mr. Weston, Admiralty chemist of Her Majesty's Dockyard, Portsmouth, pronounced the supposed piece of iron handed into the court by Captain Thrupp as having been pumped up by the bilge-pumps, to be not iron, but peroxide of iron-simply rust. Mr. G. Mills, chief engineer of the “Megæra,” read a statement he had prepared of facts attending the ship's loss, which corroborated the evidence given by Captain Thrapp. On examination, after minutely describing the pumps used on board the “Megæra," he stated that the leak was discovered to have been caused by the eating away of the plates by corrosion. Eleven places were found on the inner surface of the ship’s bottom plates, near the leak, and the iron there was so thin that it "gave” outwards under the pressure of the hand. Witness passed his fingers through the hole in the plate where the leak was, and found the edges of the iron sharp and thin, and easily to be bent back. A patch of india-rubber and boiler-plate was prepared and put over the leak on the inside, and braced on as far as it was prudent to use strength in doing so, but the water came in afterwards from under the india-rubber nearly as fast as before the patch was put on. The hole of the leak was about two inches long by a little over one inch wide, and appeared like a larger hole in the centre, with two smaller ones, at the sides of the aperture eaten into one. The appearance of the ship’s bottom was of such a nature that a lever was not allowed to be used to screw up the brace for fear of causing further injury to the plate, and the brace was only screwed tight by hand. No other means were tried to stop the leak from the inside, owing to the weakness of the plates there. He would not have recommended Captain Thrupp to have continued the voyage to Australia in the “Megæra” with her plating in the state it was known to be at and near the leak, and the probability of other bad places in the ship's bottom plating, under any conditions. He believed the damage to the plating at the leak to have been caused by galvanic action from a copper rose and pipe leading through the ship's side from a hand. pump. He was not aware of any other part of the ship being defective except the plate in the vicinity of the leak. In his opinion no means at the disposal of the ship could have made her fit to undertake the remainder of the voyage with any chance of safety.
Mr. Nathaniel Barnaby, President of the Council of Construction of the Navy, stated that the “Megæra” had been refitted in the year 1865 at the cost of 27,4001., and had again been taken in hand at Woolwich in the following year. In 1870 another examination was made, and the bottom of the vessel was found to be very thin in many places; the vessel was, however, reported ready for service for one year at least. So far as the witness knew, the results of the survey were not communicated to Captain Thrupp or any of the officers; but they were told by the Admiralty instructions to take great care that the paint and cement were not allowed to get off. On being asked if he could account for the bottom having been “ pitted ” in some parts, Mr. Barnaby said that the ship was in constant peril of having a hole worn through the bottom, where the cement did not exist, from the wash of bilge water, to say nothing of the galvanic action of copper in its neighbourhood. When asked whether the survey of April, 1870, was so thorough as to be quite satisfactory as to the ship’s seaworthiness, Mr. Barnaby declined to give an